The Take Away: Big Shots Winston-Salem
Once again, Big Shots comes through and raises the bar with regard to throwing an outstanding tournament. This past weekend they came to the Winston-Salem, NC area bringing with them some of the most talented teams you could imagine to Forsyth Country Day School. As always, there were so many hoopers in the gym and while it wasn’t possible to get to them all here are the ones that stood out:
With all of the ballers in the building none showed more upside then Team Winston’s (15U) C/O 2020, Jalen Cone. Although he’s playing on an 8th grade team, the 5’7 Point Guard is currently in the 7th grade at Kernersville Middle School (Kernersville, NC). To be so young in age Cone has an elegance and grace to his game that are well beyond his years. He has a lightening quick first step and sees the floor exceptionally well. Cone has great handles and overall ball control as he runs the Point Guard position. He has good form and a fluid release on his shot. Even when he misses it looks like it’s going in because he has a very soft touch when he shoots. What’s most impressive about Cone, from the offensive perspective, is his basketball IQ. With his ability to easily get past his initial defender, Cone knows how to read the defense and make a sound decision. When he gets into the paint, he can identify what the defense gives him and makes the smart play. He doesn’t try to force his shot or make the ill-advised pass. If the help defense steps up Cone makes the smooth, yet simple, pass to the open teammate. If the help doesn’t step up he can either take it strong to the basket or pull-up for the jumper. In transition Cone is a blur and gets up the court in a hurry. Now normally at this level, it’s typical for players to make silly mistakes or turnovers during a fast break. However, Cone destroys that notion by being in control and making good choices. He’s also an extremely patient player, which you rarely find on any level. Cone knows how to take his time and not let the speed of the game dictate his pace. Defensively, he does a great job anticipating and moving his feet. With his quickness, it’s not difficult for him to stay in front of his man, making Cone a tough on-ball defender. Overall, he’s already as good as they come on both ends of the floor and he hasn’t even hit high school yet.
Team Felton’s (16U) Malachi Lewis is arguably one of the most underrated rebounders you’ll find in the North Carolina area. The C/O 2017 6’8 Power Forward from Word of God Christian Academy (Raleigh, NC) always seems to find his way to the boards, snatching anything that comes in his direction. Lewis is light on his feet, allowing him to maneuver his way into the best possible position to grab a rebound. Couple this with his frame and it makes him one heck of a machine on the boards. He really flourishes on the offensive boards, taking advantage of teams not boxing out. Even when teams do remember to box him out, Lewis is relentless in his efforts to get his hands on the ball. Once he grabs the board, he has a soft touch that helps him easily convert the rebound into 2 points. Defensively, Lewis is active and energetic, making sure to stay in front of his man. He also does a good job challenging shots in his vicinity. Although Lewis isn’t extremely athletic, he does well with the tools that he has. There are a few key things that Lewis will need to work toward that would raise him to an elite level player. While he has great hands, he seems to bring the ball down too low when he grabs rebounds, allowing the smaller guards to swipe the ball away. Making sure to keep the ball high would eliminate this issue. Lewis would also benefit from adding a little more ferocity to his game. Not only will it make him more intimidating, but it would enable him to be more of a dominant force in the paint. Lastly, once Lewis is able to raise his endurance, he’ll be able to stay in the game longer and be more impactful. Overall, this kid has one of the basic fundamentals down pact and has a huge impact on the game with his rebounding. Lewis is fun to watch and will undoubtedly make a coach at the next level happy.
It’s not too often you find a player that makes it difficult to identify an area of improvement. However, during the Big Shots Winston-Salem tournament, Team United’s (16U) Kaleb Hunter proved to be one of those players. The 6’4 Shooting Guard from North Raleigh Christian Academy (Raleigh, NC) is a dynamic offensive player. Hunter has a college ready body, a quick first step, and can jump out of the building. He also has the capability to knock down jumpers on a consistent basis. So backing up off of him and giving him space does not limit him from scoring. Defensively, Hunter is nimble and has a good sense of anticipation. He excels in playing the passing lane; he has the length and quickness to jump out and intercept passes to start the fast break. In the open floor he’s a highlight reel waiting to happen. It’s usually not in the defenders best interest to try to meet Hunter at the rim as he’s known to create posters every now and again. As he continues to develop making sure to add a more accurate jumper will only solidify him as an elite player in the North Carolina area. Hunter is already on the radar of high major schools as he’s getting interest from ACC schools, such as, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. With the talent and effort he plays with, there’s a big certainty that the interest and offers will definitely pile in for him before the end of the summer.
Team Felton’s (16U) Hendon Hooker is a fierce competitor that gets after it on both ends of the floor. Although the C/O 2017, 6’5 Shooting Guard from Dudley High School (Greensboro, NC) is a star quarter back for his school there’s no doubt that Hooker is a flat out hooper. The first thing that you’ll notice is his unassuming intensity. In talking with Hooker, he is soft spoken and easy going, but when you watch him on the court he’s merciless. Offensively, he does a good job of not being a black hole when he gets the ball. If there’s an opportunity for him to get a basket he takes it, if not, he makes sure the ball is moved quickly. When Hooker’s number is called, he uses a strong first step to get by his initial defender and drives hard to the basket. He has a solid frame that allows him to absorb the bumps on the way to the rim and can finish with authority. Hooker also gets off the floor which allows him to be on the receiving end of back door ally-oops! While he doesn’t shoot much due to having teammates that are lights out perimeter players, he does have a solid jumper. Defensively, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who’s as intense and active as Hooker, especially on the ball! Even though he’s defending with a high level of intensity, he’s very much under control. It’s clear that he takes pride in strapping up and guarding his man which is rare (I could only give you a handful of kids that have this priority). He has long limbs, quick hands, and good lateral movement which make it a nightmare for his opponent to try to shoot over him or drive to the lane. Overall, Hooker has the tools to be a high major player at the next level. If there’s anything that he could improve on or do more of, it’s shooting. There were opportunities when defenders gave him too much space or didn’t close out fast enough, where Hooker could have really capitalized. It won’t be a surprise when college coaches come knocking at his door for basketball by the end of the summer.
Carolina Raptors’ (16U) Elijah McCadden showed a lot of promise during the Big Shots Winston-Salem tournament. The C/O 2018 6’4 Point Guard from Rocky Mount Academy (Rocky Mount, NC) is already sparking up a buzz and it’s easy to see why. Not only does McCadden have good height, he also has long limbs. Which is highly beneficially on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he has good handle enabling him to bring the ball up the court and, with his size, easily see over the defense. This makes it easier for him to run the sets and find the open man. McCadden is also a good passer that can deliver the ball right on cue – a necessity in the Point Guard position. When he gets into the lane he does well either going strong to the basket, putting up the floater, or kicking it out to the spot-up shooter. Defensively, he does a good job pressuring his man when they have the ball. McCadden is not insanely quick, but he moves well and uses his long limbs to his advantage. He’s able to reach in and disrupt his man without drawing the foul. McCadden also isn’t afraid to get in the paint and battle with the big men for rebounds. Overall, McCadden has huge potential to be an elite level guard in the state. One thing that can help him get there is adding a consistent jumper to his arsenal. He’s a pass first guard which is great, however, there will be times that his team will rely on him to shoot the ball. Once McCadden evolves into a triple threat, he’ll be that much harder to guard. Working on his quickness will be another asset that will help him reach elite status. The scary thing is McCadden is just a freshman and will continue to develop and get better, so make sure to be on the lookout.
One of the biggest surprises of the Big Shots Winston-Salem tournament came from Team United’s (16U) Kristopher Monroe. The 6’7 Forward from South Granville High School (Creedmoor, NC) is highly skilled and plays with a chip on his shoulder. On the court Monroe appears to be emotionless, however, he plays with a predatory ambition. Always seeking the opportunity to get after his opponent. There is no mercy with Monroe, like a shark when it smells blood in the water. Offensively, he’s a relentless attacker with the handle and speed to create his own shot or get to the basket. Monroe is also equipped with the ability to knock down jumpers. He’s dangerous in the open floor, as he’s able to weave past defenders to find his way to the rim or hit the open man on the break. When Monroe gets to the basket he attacks with a ferociousness that makes defenders think twice about challenging him. Defensively, he’s active and alert making sure to stay in front of his man. Monroe takes advantage of his size playing the passing lanes and as a help defender, making it difficult for the opposing team to get shots off or drive to the basket. Although it was difficult to spot, the one thing that he could improve is getting lower with his dribble. Even though it’s higher than it should be, he does a good job taking care of the ball. At the next level he will face faster opponents that will make it tough for him to get to his spots off the dribble if he doesn’t get it lower. Overall, this kid is a sleeper. He’s already been noticed by scouts in the North Carolina and it shouldn’t be long before he’s getting national attention.